A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“When I said ‘nuke the Chinese,’ I meant put the takeout in the microwave” (4/22)
“Why is ground beef so popular?"/"Because the flying cows are really hard to catch.” (4/22)
“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people…” (4/22)
“If you wait long enough to make dinner, everyone will just eat cereal.  It’s science” (4/22)
“Men make counterfeit money; in many more cases, money makes counterfeit men” (4/22)
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Entry from November 18, 2011
“If you can’t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record”

"If you can’t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record” is a popular adage in track and field. The saying means that if you can’t win, you at least know that the person who did win was very, very good.

“If you are beaten, make the fellow ahead of you break the record” has been cited in print since at least 1917. The saying has frequently been attributed since at least 1977 to Jan McKeithen, a columnist for the Camden County Tribune in St. Mary’s, Georgia, but McKeithen didn’t originate it.


29 July 1917, Denver (CO) Post, pg. 1 (above the masthead):
“If you are beaten,” reads a motto, “make the fellow ahead of you break the record.”—Ed Howe

Google Books
4 December 1920, The Lutheran Companion (Rock Island, IL), pg. 781, col. 3:
If you cannot win, make the one ahead of you break the record.

8 July 1921, Tampa (FL) Tribune, pg. B5, col. 3:
“If you cannot win, make the one ahead of you break the record.”

1 April 1922, Forest Park (IL) Review, “Club Representatives Partake of Banquet,” pg. 8,col. 3:
He closed with, “You can’t win a race by making the man ahead of you break the record. Help your own school win a prize.”

26 October 1927, Greensboro (NC) Record, “Office Cat” by Junius, pg. 15, col. 2:
If you cannot win, make the one ahead of you break the record.

Google News Archive
20 September 1965, Kingsport (TN) Post, “Fun In The Press,” pg. 2, col. 5:
If you. can’t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record. — The Guardian

Google Books
Quote Unquote
By Lloyd Cory
Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
1977
Pg. ?:
If you cannot win, make the one ahead of you break the record. (Jan McKeithen)

Google Books
Good Advice
By William Safire and Leonard Safir
New York, NY: Wings Books; Avenel, NL: Distributed by Outlet Book Co.
1992
Pg. 47:
If you can ‘t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record.
--Anonymous

The Daily Fairfield (CT)
Wolff Sets Ludlowe Record in Pole Vault
by Jim Gerweck 04/16/11
There’s a saying in track and field: “If you can’t win, make the guy ahead of you break the record.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Friday, November 18, 2011 • Permalink